Brrr! Don’t let cold temps freeze your workout plans

Written by: Becky McGraw, Health Fitness Specialist

As the temperature dips below freezing, most people are driven indoors and abandon exercising outside. Although working out in sub-freezing temperatures may seem dreadful, exercising in cold weather can actually be beneficial.

Benefits may include:

1. Increase calorie burn

Your metabolism is increased as your body works harder to regulate your core body temperature.

2. Strengthen your cardiovascular system.

Exercising in cold temperatures causes your heart to work even harder to pump blood throughout the body and maintain heat, thus strengthening your heart and circulatory system.

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3. Avoid SAD. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Exercising outdoors and enjoying nature will help release endorphins which can boost your mood and fight off symptoms of depression.

Young woman in a bright blue hat, orange sweater and elk smiles and stretches before running on a sports field on a bright winter day
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4. Feel more energized.

The chill and reduced humidity can have a stimulating effect on the body. Increased endorphin production in the cold will also leave you feeling more energized following your workouts.

If you would like to brave the elements in order to gain the previously mentioned benefits, follow these tips to help make working out in the cold more bearable:

1. Warm up.

While still indoors, jog in place, do a few jumping jacks or a few dynamic warmup exercises before going outside. Performing a couple moves will raise your heart rate and slightly elevate your core temperature.

2. Layer up.

A key guideline to consider is to dress as if the outside temperature is about 20° warmer than the real temperature. If the forecast is cold and wet, your workout attire should ideally consist of a wicking base layer, an insulating layer and a windproof and/or waterproof outer layer.

Glove and Snow cap for protection from cold weather
3. The right materials. 

All of your gear should be materials which are breathable and moisture-wicking. Active wear made from cotton may trap moisture next to your skin which may make you feel colder once you start to sweat.

4. Protect your body from head to toe.

We lose some body heat from our heads, so be sure to cover your lid or wear a balaclava in subzero temperatures. A buff or balaclava over your mouth can also help warm the air you are breathing in. Wear lip balm to protect your lips from the cold and wind. If you are able, zip your jacket fully up to your neck. Gloves or mittens will help keep your fingers warm and your toes will thank you if you wear wool socks.

Exercising no matter how cold it is.
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5. Safety first. 

Chances are you will be exercising in the low light (or completely dark) hours of the day. Be sure to wear bright, reflective clothing or use a vest in addition to bringing a headlamp or flashlight along to help see and be seen.

6. Stay hydrated.

Drinking plenty of water is always on our minds during the warmer months, but dehydration is still an issue in winter. Be sure to drink water throughout your day and replenish fluids after the workout.

Woman drinking water during a running. Cold weather. Jogging woman in a city during a winter. Sunny day. Drinking mode.

Becky McGraw is a Health Fitness Specialist at Corporate Fitness Works. She has a BS in Kinesiology, is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and a Level 1 RRCA and USATF certified running coach. Becky enjoys ultramarathon runs, especially on the trails.

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